Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • The offence of actual bodily harm
  • Elements of the offence
  • The assault
  • Conduct
  • Intention and recklessness
  • Unlawful force
  • Battery
  • Causing actual bodily harm
  • Defences
  • More...

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm

The offence of actual bodily harm

The offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) can be tried in either the magistrates' court or the Crown Court. Most offences of ABH are tried in the magistrates' court unless the court considers its powers of sentencing are insufficient (see: Sentencing for ABH below).

Elements of the offence

Under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OATPA 1861), the prosecution must prove:

  1. an assault or battery, and

  2. the assault or battery caused the victim actual bodily harm

The assault

The definition of an assault is:

  1. conduct

  2. that intentionally or recklessly

  3. causes the victim to apprehend immediate unlawful violence

For further information on conduct which constitutes an assault, see Practice Note: Common assault and battery,

Conduct

It is not necessary that any violence is actually used. It is the fear or apprehension of violence that is required.

For example, in R v Ireland repeated silent telephone calls to three women were held to constitute an assault in circumstances where the victims feared the possibility of immediate personal violence.

For more information on the scope of conduct required, see Practice Note: Common assault and battery.

Intention and recklessness

The defendant must intentionally (deliberately) or recklessly cause the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

The test of recklessness is set out in R v Cunningham. It is a subjective test. An accused will be 'Cunningham reckless'

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